Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers could see their bills go up substantially under a $1.1 billion rate hike proposed this week. Monthly household electric bills would increase an average of $8.73, while natural gas customers would pay $1.84 more.
The utility, which serves northern and central California, said more than half the money would be spent boosting wildfire safety through more vegetation management and hardening the utility’s electric system.
PG&E has been blamed for sparking some of the state’s worst wildfires. It paid $2.5 billion in damage charges after it was blamed for starting the deadly 2017 North Bay fires. It’s been sued multiple times over last month’s Camp Fire in Butte County, though investigators have not announced the cause of that blaze, the deadliest and most destructive in state history.
“Reflecting the company’s commitment to address the growing threat of wildfires, PG&E is proposing a series of important additional safety investments as part of its 2020 General Rate Case (GRC) to help further protect the 16 million people it serves,” PG&E said in a statement on its website.
Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group and critic of PG&E, described the new rate hike as “stunning.”
“PG&E has already said they want customers to pay billions in liabilities. And now they want billions in rate hikes as well, as if customers were just endless fountains of money for them to dip into.” Spatt said. “We’ve got to wonder, where did all the money we already gave you for safety and reliability go? And are we getting what we’re paying for?”
The final say on the rate hike will be up to California Public Utilities Commission. If approved, the increases would take effect in 2020.